Solidarity, Community, Internationalism (and Good Public Broadcasting)

Yle, the Finnish public broadcaster, asked four recent immigrants to Finland, people who are still in the process of studying Finnish and integrating into the society, to interview representatives of the country’s main political parties in the run-up to parliamentary elections, which will take place there on April 19.

The catch was that Yle also asked the parties to send as interviewees party members who were immigrants and had themselves learned Finnish as adults or teenagers. Among other things, the interviewees were asked to explain how they had come to join the particular parties they now represented.

Interestingly and unsurprisingly, the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset), notorious for its anti-immigrant views, was unable to provide an interviewee for the program.

The Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto) sent as its representative Suldan Said Ahmed, a young entrepreneur and politician originally from Somaliland. (Somaliland is an autonomous region of Somalia that seeks recognition as an independent country from the rest of the world, but as yet hasn’t got it.)

According to Said Ahmed, solidarity, community, and internationalism are the three words that best sum up the Left Alliance for him.

If like me, you are someone studying Finnish, you should love listening to Said Ahmed, because his Finnish is much easier to understand and “correct” than that spoken by “real” Finns, what with their variety of local dialects and reliance on puhekieli (conversational language), which is often shockingly at variance from the “proper” textbook Finnish we foreigners and immigrants learn on courses.

I found a recent article profiling Said Ahmed in the leftist Finnish newspaper Kansan Uutiset.

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Suldaan Said Ahmed. Photo: Kalevi Rytkölä / Yle

It seems Said Ahmed has political ambitions in his native Somaliland as well. He would like to become the youngest MP there and is planning to stand, apparently, in this year’s upcoming parliamentary elections there.

Said Ahmed would also like sometime in the future to be president of Finland, but that job, alas, is constitutionally only open to native-born Finns. (So far, I would like to think for his sake.)

I find all of this so fascinating in part because, just last week, I had to go verbally postal on a few of my classmates in the advanced Finnish course I have been taking here in the former capital of All the Russias. For the second or third time this semester, they regaled the rest of us with dark tales of how Somalians like Said Ahmed are ruining the fair country of Finland by moving there in droves to become—yes—welfare scroungers. Meanwhile, the government has decided, allegedly, not to let more Russians to move to Finland, even though generally it wants to encourage more immigration to the country to help care for its aging population, etc.

You get the drift.

It might rock my classmates’ world to find out that one of the interviewers in the “Let’s Meet the Parties” program (along with a man from the Philippines, a woman from Lithuania, and a woman from South Korea) is Svetlana Siltanen, who emigrated to Finland from Russia last year.

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Svetlana Siltanen. Photo: Mikko Kuusisalo / Yle

My “dream a little dream” today would be to put Yle in charge of public broadcasting for a year in Russia. What a difference that could make to people’s outlooks here.

A Prayer for Peace

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“A Prayer for Peace,” Interior Theater, Nevsky Prospect, Petrograd, March 14, 2014

Russia and Ukraine are on the eve of a fratricidal war. This is madness! During these terrible days, it seems that words and actions have lost their meanings. We suggest praying for peace. By dedicating this day to praying for peace, we would like people, regardless of creed, nationality, and political views, to unite and say no to war.

To All the “Antifascists” Out There, from Petrograd

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The sticker reads, in part, “Work for ethnic Russians.” Photographed by The Russian Reader in the Petersburg subway.

A young Petersburg leftist, A.N., made the following comment on his Facebook page earlier today. What he says here is obvious to anyone with a brain and elementary powers of observation who has been living in Russia the past five or ten years (if not longer), but it had to be said now. People outside Russia who don’t understand these “alphabetical truths” (home truths), as the Russians say, should refrain from commenting on “the situation” in Ukraine and Russia.

It’s been funny watching as people absolutely incapable of doing anything at home in Russia have been vigorously calling for the “restoration of order” in a neighboring country, Ukraine. Day and night, they have been seeking out “fascists,” provocateurs, and victims on Maidan and in Crimea, while paying no attention to what has been happening right under their own noses.

The only thing these latter-day “antifascists” want to avoid seeing is that there has been fascism here in Russia for a long time already. It has been manifested in assaults on migrants, in the ongoing homophobic hysteria, in flagrant censorship, in cutbacks to social services, in political show trials and folks sent to prison for political or trade union activism, in the implantation of right-wing reactionary views in society, in increasing social stratification, in insane laws passed with such speed we don’t have time to react to them, and in many other things.

But this is of no interest to anyone, because it’s not a YouTube video or a comment on Facebook, and basically we got used to all of it long ago. And it’s okay: life goes on. And now our neighbors in Ukraine can get used to it, too.

Time Is Not on Their Side

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If the following article makes no sense to you, don’t worry. It makes no sense to me, either.

MOSCOW, October 11 – Reverting to Winter Time especially for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics would cost the Russian budget in excess of $300 million, the head of the organizing committee said Friday.

Russia used to set its clocks back by an hour in the winter, as is done in the rest of Europe, but canceled the practice in 2011 under former President Dmitry Medvedev.

The International Olympic Committee was among those who called for a return to Winter Time to bring Russia’s broadcast schedules closer to the West for February’s Winter Games.

President Vladimir Putin ruled that out earlier this year, and Sochi 2014 chief executive Dmitry Chernyshenko elaborated on the reasons why in an address to lawmakers in Moscow on Friday.

“We forecast, other than the reputational risk and discomfort to our athletes, logistical issues and financial risks,” were winter time to be reinstated, Chernyshenko said.

“The extra expenditure needed from the federal budget to compensate international broadcasters who might lose advertising contracts in the event of a time change will lead to penalties, and we will have to compensate for it. The sum of the risks could exceed $300 million,” he said.

Reverting to winter time, he said, would lead to “fatal changes in the timetables” of Sochi’s logistics, including transport and cargo schedules.

The Games, Russia’s first Winter Olympics, are set to run February 7-23.

Source: RIA Novosti

Image courtesy of Hymy Huulet Facebook page and Comrade Tiina. The cartoon reads (in Finnish):

“I changed the clocks to winter time.”

“It’s nice to know that at three in the morning.”

Because of Russia’s inexplicable rejection of winter time, there is a two-hour difference between Estonia and Finland and the neighboring Russian regions of Pskov, Novgorod, Murmansk, Karelia, Leningrad Region and St. Petersburg during half the year.